After pummelling Toronto Blue Jays’ pitchers for a total of eight park jobs in the first two games of their three game series, the Boston Red Sox were looking for a power surge similar to the one in the rubber match from their earlier three game set at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
In that game, third baseman Will Middlebrooks homered three times, accounting for half of the Sox dingers on their way to a 13-0 pasting of the Blue Jays that commenced a season high seven game winning streak…
…but what they got on Thursday night was a “pitching duel” that forced the Sox to fall back on their small ball ways that dominate their offensive landscape everywhere but Toronto.
Singles, walks and sac flies brought in three runs, plenty for Ryan Dempster on this night, the righty going six solid, giving up just one run on four hits, whiffing four as well, leading the Red Sox to 3-1 victory over J.A. Happ and the Blue Jays in Toronto on Thursday night.
Happ struggled with his locations from the first batter, walking a season high seven in 3 2/3 innings. The big right hander allowed only three hits and two runs in his shortest stint of the season, but he struggled to get half of his pitches over for strikes and was nearing the 100 pitch threshold in the fourth inning before being lifted.
In that fourth inning with two gone and the Sox leading 2-1, Happ walked the bases loaded, his four pitch free pass to Jonny Gomes the talisman, lifted for reliever Brad Lincoln who induced Dustin Pedroia into an inning ending grounder to short.
Lincoln went 1.2 innings, and was responsible for the third Red Sox run as he walked David Ross to start the sixth inning then advanced him into scoring position with a wild pitch. Lincoln was immediately pulled for Steve Delabar, who promptly served up an RBI single to Jacoby Ellsbury, scoring Ross.
Toronto scored on a lead off homer by Brett Lowrie, threatening a few times along the way – particularly in the seventh inning when they loaded the bases against releiver Andrew Miller, but Junichi Tazawa came on and walked Lowrie to load the bases, then blew a nasty fireball past Adam Lind to end the Blue jays’ chances.
Koji Uehara pitched the eighth and Joel Hanrahan was the surprise closer, finishing for his fourth save in five chances.
Boston scored their first two runs in the top of the second, Mike Napoli doubled and scored on Mike Carp ‘s single to right, and Stephen Drew drove in Will Middlebrooks with a sacrifice fly. Carp has been solid in his role and appears to be a most fortuitous late spring training pickup for manager John Farrell’s offense.
David Ortiz was a healthy scratch, and with Papi out of the lineup and the Rogers’ Centre roof open for the first time all season, the lack of offense on both sides can be explained somewhat. Regardless, with the win the Sox have now taken seven of nine series so far this season and maintain the title of best record in baseball, becoming the first team to 20 wins.
Now the Red Sox take their sparkling record to Texas for a weekend set with the Rangers, who are tied with the New York Yankees for the second best record in baseball. Felix Doubront and his 3-0 record take the mound for the Sox while the Rangers counter with Derek Holland.